Alan and I spent some time this past week working through the “conjugations” given in Pacifique (Hewson & Francis 1990 translation). Below is the first installment: the first three conjugations, or the “animate intransitives” (we checked most of these over, but please correct us if you see we’ve transcribed something wrong).
First a few background notes, which will be relevant for the rest of the paradigms as well. “Intransitive” verbs are those that have just a subject, like “I danced” or “Mary slept”, not a subject and an object as in “I read the book.” These are “animate” intransitives because the subject must be animate. In Mi’gmaq, as in other Algonquian languages, “animate” is a grammatical category (comparable to “feminine” and “masculine” in French). Humans and animals are generally animate, but so are bottles and potatoes. Each of the forms below involves a single animate participant. Stay tuned for wiki info on animacy; a different conjugation will be given for intransitives with inanimate subjects.
The paradigms below have are in the form of this first table, where I’ve given English versions of the “person” and “number” distinctions. Note that Mi’gmaq makes two distinctions not found in English. Where as English distinguishes between singular (one) and plural (more than one), Mi’gmaq makes a three-way distinction: singular (one), dual (two), and plural (more than two). Mi’gmaq also distinguishes different kinds of first person in the dual and plural forms (forms equivalent to “we”). In English, if I say “we” I could be referring to me and someone else in the discourse (“yesterday when you weren’t here, we went to the store”), or to me and the listener, and possibly others (“we have a lot of work to do, let’s go!”). In Mi’gmaq the first kind is the “exclusive” (excluding the listener), while the second is called the “inclusive” (including the listener). Finally, because Mi’gmaq encodes the information about the subject on the verb, an overt noun or pronoun is not necessary (compare Spanish). More on this in a separate post.
|1st person(excl)||I||we (two, not you)||we (plural, not you)|
|1st person(incl)||we (two, including you)||we (plural, including you)|
|2nd person||you||you guys (two)||you guys (plural)|
|3rd person||he, she, it||them (two)||them (plural)|
Now for the paradigms. These paradigms are helpful because once you know one form of a given verb, you know the others. For example, if you hear [amalgai] “I dance”, you know that “they (pl) dance” will be [amalga’tijig]. Furthermore, note that while these are listed as three different conjugations, you don’t actually need to memorize three different paradigms. Instead, the main difference between the three forms is the first vowel: no vowel in 1, [a] in 2, and [e] in 3 (if you know Spanish, you can think of these as being comparable to -ar, -er, and -ir verbs; comparable distinction in French). So you just have to memorize the endings in the first paradigm, the others will be the same with the addition of the initial “stem vowel”, with one of important difference: In the first conjugation, if you compare the dual and plural columns, you see that plural involves the addition of [-ult]. In the second and third conjugations, the [u] is dropped. In the second conjugation, the stem vowel is lengthened: [-a’t]. In the third conjugation, a reduced vowel (represented with the apostrophe) is present [-‘t].
One more helpful thing to note is that the sound [t] frequently becomes [j] before a vowel. This means that the difference between the 3rd person singular [-it] and the third person plural [-ijig] can be thought of as the addition of the plural marker [-ig] plus the sound change: [-it-ig] becomes [-ijig]. We will see the [-ig] marking plural elsewhere in the language.
VAI “1st conjugation”: teluis- “to be named”
VAI – “2nd conjugation”; amalg- “to dance”; alangu- “to shop”; a’sutm- “to pray”; gaqnm- “to be out of things”
VAI – “3rd conjugation”; ewi’gig- “to write”
McGill team: could someone take charge of getting this up on the wiki? The Pacifique grammar also gives more examples of each conjugation, which would be helpful to have, and could be worked into CAN8 lessons. The verb forms should be checked over with a speaker, and let’s try to include more frequently used verbs, or verbs that will be useful in everyday conversation. Eventually we’ll want to put up at least negative and past forms––maybe in tables hyper-linked from this one.
Mi’gmaq speakers: please add comments if you see mistakes or can think of any helpful examples or frequently used verbs.